Alcohol Withdrawal & Recovery Timeline
First off, alcohol withdrawal is no joke and shouldn’t be confused with a hangover. Withdrawal is beyond the hangover stage and triggers very real physiological changes in your body that are often seen in people who have been drinking heavily over a long period of time. Stopping cold for these types of heavy users can be fatal so it’s extremely important to liaise with your doctor when you’re ready to change your life. You won’t want to go through withdrawal more than once and it will be the best decision you ever make.
The Shitty Part – Symptoms
- Extreme tiredness (0-4 weeks)
- Headaches and ‘brain fog’ (0-4 days)
- Nausea and sickness (0-4 days)
- Insomnia and/or nightmares (0-2 weeks)
- Depression (0-3 weeks)
- Anxiety (0-2 weeks, longer in extreme cases)
- Seizures (in extreme cases, always consult your doctor)
How to Minimise Symptoms
- Drink plenty of water – you’ve dehydrated your body for too long with alcohol so flushing out the toxins with a high intake of water will be important
- Take as many naps as your body will allow – alcohol really messes with your deep REM sleep and although you can’t recoup lost sleep, you can do your best to allow your brain to recover through sleep.
- Avoid sugar and coffee – mainly because you don’t want to exacerbate any of the already present symptoms. Try to get used to healthy foods that help with the detoxification (vegetables are your friend!).
- Pick up a new activity – not just to distract yourself, but to actually start to enjoy activities that don’t involve alcohol! Things like running, painting, reading, rock climbing, playing a musical instrument, learning a language, helping the homeless, gardening, cooking, dancing, gaming, catching up with loved ones… The list goes on.
The Positive Part – Alcohol Recovery Timeline
Up to 48 hours – The hangover
Day 2 – 5
- High blood pressure
- Severe tiredness/fatigue
- Poor quality sleep
- Low motivation.
Things will improve from here.
Day 6 & 7
Day 7 – 14
- Increased energy
- Better sleeps and possibly remembering dreams you’ve had (meaning you’ve had more deep REM sleep)
- Less anxiety and more mental clarity
- More resilient to life’s stresses
- A more positive outlook on life (symptoms of depression start to alleviate)
- Less puffy/red face
Day 14 – 28
Each day within this period you’ll feel very gradual improvements and you should remember that your brain still needs to heal. Significant improvements to your mood, your sleep and your motivation levels will be noticed. Picking up new hobbies and ways to exercise will be important here as you start to rewire the reward part of your brain. You’re used to synthetic dopamine rewards through alcohol so you’ll need to work on achieving this naturally from now on. Give yourself some time and don’t be hard on yourself throughout this time period.
1 – 6 Months
This is a time to thoroughly enjoy as you will notice a huge difference physically. Refer back to the photo you took within the hangover phase and the vast difference should confirm your decision to never drink again.
6 Months and beyond
At this point in time, you can start enjoying life naturally again. Even heavy users will experience a newfound sense of life at this point.